You are beautiful!
Three little words.
Oh, the struggle that they bring.
As a woman, I how deeply I long to hear them, to have them poured over my heart continuously. I want to just marinate in those words over and over and over again. I am not kidding, I could hear them all day long and still not have enough.
Although, I confess, that I deeply struggle to accept and believe those words. I can give quite a convincing rebuttal about why I am anything but beautiful.
Perhaps you are familiar with some of these arguments yourself. I am fat. I am ugly. I am not the right shape. I am not the right size. I have wrinkles or stretch marks or scars. I have the wrong color hair or eyes or skin. I am too short or too tall. This quickly snowballs into an avalanche of comparison. I compare myself to others; people I know, people I have only seen pictures of and even to a former version of myself. (Ironically, when I compare myself now to myself earlier I seem to discount the fact that I was not happy then with who I was at the time).
For me, arguing about my beauty is not just about disputing outside appearance. I also present a prosecution against my inside characteristics, traits and performance. A beautiful person would not think the thoughts that I think, or take the actions that I take or fail the way that I fail. A beautiful person is also a successful person, a recognized person, a perfect person.
I am not that person. I am not successful. I am not recognized. I am not perfect. Therefore, I must not be beautiful.
Tears, many tears, have come from these arguments that I make about myself.
As I was wrestling with this today, myself, I felt compelled to write about it. My dear reader, I am sharing a piece of my greatest struggle with you. As I sit here typing away, I hope that you have no idea what I am talking about. I hope you can not relate at all. But, from conversations that I have had with others…I do not think I am alone in this struggle.
There are some pretty ugly side effects that come from this kind of thinking and internal arguing. Let me share some of mine with you.
When it comes to taking pictures, I tend to hide behind the camera. Or I strive to get just the right picture to hide as many of my perceived flaws as possible. I can not count the number of pictures that I have deleted because I found them unfavorable.
I battle a temptation to avoid getting together with friends that I have not seen in a while. I dwell on the fear that all they will focus on is the extra weight I have acquired since last they saw me. A little voice in my own head says they will then look upon me with disappointment and disgust.
I fear shopping for new clothes. I would rather have a root canal than face a dressing room mirror. I have had a root canal, which led to the removal of great pain and the beginning of healing. Trying clothes on is one of the most pain inflicting things that I ever have to do. It’s as if every flaw that I have is shone under spotlight and magnifying glass at the same time.
I would hate to see a cumulative total for the amount of energy, emotions and effort that I have poured in over the years into this counter argument that I am NOT beautiful.
I can sum up this mental and emotion battle in two words using a phrase an incredible coworker of mine used to use, that’s just “stinkin’ thinking”. I know that I have thoughts that need to be taken captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). I know that I need to be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). I know that must no longer live in the futility of my thinking (Ephesians 4:17).
I was digging into Ephesians 4:17-32 in response to my struggles this morning. The word futility was illuminated in a new way for me. Do you know what futility means? According to webster.com, it means being futile; incapable of producing any result, ineffective, useless and not successful.
That seems to be a great definition of “stinkin’ thinking”, thinking that is futile; incapable of producing any result, ineffective, useless and not successful.
The passage in Ephesians 4:17-32 discusses the need to put off “your old self” and to “be made new in the attitude of your minds”.
So how do we walk through this?
Acknowledge the Thought
I think it begins with bringing all the yucky thoughts into the light and acknowledging them. Here is one of the challenges: recognize the thought, but do not dwell on it. Do not indulge in the impurity.
To me, impure thoughts are like looking in distorted fun house mirrors. They deceive. When we walk through a house of mirrors at the amusement park we are quick to look at the image and shrug it off. Why is that? Well we have a truth deeply ingrained that the reflected image is not who we are.
But what if that distorted fun house mirror was the only mirror we had ever used? Not so easy to laugh off. It is probably going to take more time and effort to believe that is not who we are. We would probably have to take away the mirror that was and replace it with a different version.
Out with the Old, In with the New
Just like we need to throw away the old distorted mirror, we need to throw away the distorted thought, but this is not as easy. I think when it comes to thoughts that the whole mirror analogy is problematic. Taking a fun house mirror out of my house and replacing it with one from the local building store seems easy; a one time deal.
I can not tell you the number of distorted thoughts about my beauty that I have had to throw out time and time and time again. It frustrates me. I have found that a more appropriate analogy for a clearing of thoughts is like dusting. Dust just seems to appear and accumulate, at least around my house it does. Dusting once is just not an option. It is an ongoing regular chore.
This is especially true around the farm house I live in. We don’t have dust bunnies here, we have dust buffaloes, sometimes it feels as if we have herds of them. As a town girl myself there are moments I am exceedingly frustrated at the dirt and dust that accumulates here.
The same thing is true with my counter arguments and thoughts about my own beauty. It is exceedingly frustrating that they continue to accumulate and return. My mind needs a mental dusting of those tainted thoughts on a regular basis.
Tools to Use
Scripture: a good dose of truth, that is life giving, is a good way to start freshening up those thoughts. We are so blessed to living in an age where scripture is readily available; printed versions to hold onto & write on, electronic versions, apps, websites and good old google searches.
Prayer: Prayer is conversation with a God who loves you so much. I know that at times it feels like we don’t know where to start or what to say, it can be awkward and uncomfortable. Like the old Nike slogan goes, “Just do it”. It really does help and God really wants to connect with you. You never know what new thought will enter through your mind or what picture will come to you or what peace will overwhelm you. God works in ways that are just mysterious to us.
Friends: Friends who can remind us of our beauty and who can help us to recognize thoughts that need to be dusted away. Just like a good friend can come help clean a house, time with a good friend can help clean a mind. They can also be a good source of scripture and prayer.
Loving Others with our Words: I am so often humbled when I am serving others, especially with words of encouragement, how many times I need to take in those words myself. “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” Proverbs 11:25 (NIV). Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) encourages us to say, “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”. Do we need to take the medicine of our own advice?
Serve with our Hands: If we get our hands moving and doing we can bring a screeching halt to those thoughts. I would like to believe that in God’s eyes these acts of love where we are giving to others makes us even more beautiful.
You are beautiful!
At this point of after acknowledging the dirt and cleaning it out, removing the distorted mirrors, and freshening up everything with a bit of truth we can sit in a moment of peace and really recognize this, accept it and take it in; You are Beautiful!
You are beautiful. So am I. Here is a picture of beautiful me and my beautiful daughter taken only days ago.
Did I lose any weight? No, my pudgy arms and chubby tummy are still here. Those stretch marks? Still got them all. Any great achievements acquired? No titles added, no awards received, as I write this no one even knows I am writing, except my daughter who is at home with me. So what changed? A change of mind and a change of heart.
My dear reader, I hope that as you have journeyed with me through this that there is a peace filled sense that you are incredibly beautiful. For all of the guys who read through this, it may not be a hope to be beautiful that you long for. Instead, perhaps it is a sense of value and of worth in being able to protect & provide. May you know that you are not a failure, but are valuable success. While the the thoughts are not exactly the same, they are similar in many ways. God has truths to replace those thoughts of failure and disappointment, too.
You are a beautiful treasure and a precious gift!
Beloved and Cherished Lord,
I am in awe of how You can take our most vicious and brutal arguments captive and replace them with gentle loving truths. How is it possible to go from such unrest and frustration to a sense of sweet peace? I do not understand, but I know that I do not have to understand to benefit from it.
Lord, I ask that you would help these words to bring peace and joy to someone today. I don’t know who needs them (outside of myself), but I pray that it would be more than just me. Please help all of the hurting hearts out there.
Help the ladies, women and girls, whose own thoughts of being ugly hurt them just as much as the words of others. May they know they are truly beautiful just as they are in this moment.
Help the guys, men and boys, who feel that they are failures now and who worry about being able to provide for the days to come. May they know that they are truly successful as they are in this moment.
May pain be replaced with peace, in the name of Jesus, amen.